Edward Jenner


1749-1823 (73 years old)

United Kingdom

Year of great discovery/work

Jenner realized the milk maids who worked with cattle and came in contact with cowpox virus never got smallpox, a related but more dangerous disease. Jenner decided to test his observation by infecting someone with material from a pustule on the hands of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes. He then exposed an 8-year-old boy named James Phipps to smallpox through variolation—a process in which pus was dried until crusted, then ground up and then either inhaled as powder or injected into one’s vein. After variolation, Phipps remained healthy. Jenner continued using his technique called vaccination, in many others. Historically, smallpox killed more people than all other infectious diseases combined. In 1980, less than 200 years after Jenner invented the smallpox vaccine, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated, meaning no one anywhere in the world was infected with smallpox. The disease has been successfully eliminated from the face of the earth.

Did you know?
Jenner worked with samples from voyages to the Pacific. He was offered the chance to take part in further exploration. But, he chose to study medicine.